Glimpse into the past – Arboretum Club House

by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Arboretum Club House, March 27, 1959
Arboretum Club House, March 27, 1959

In the early days of the Washington Park Arboretum, the Arboretum Club House and Floral Hall exhibit space was the venue for many flower shows, exhibits and functions.  It was the only facility where public functions could be held in the Arboretum.

 

Conifer Exhibit in the Floral Hall exhibit space, November 21, 1955
Conifer Exhibit in the Floral Hall exhibit space, November 21, 1955

On April 7, 1968, a fire was discovered at 7:00 a.m. in the Club House.  Vernon E. Kousky, a UW student walking through the Arboretum, reported it to Pablo Abellera, who lived in the foreman’s house (which currently houses the education offices).  They called the Safety Division on campus, which notified the Seattle Fire Department who had extinguished the fire by 7:50 a.m.

The entire south half of the building was gutted and the rest was badly scorched and charred.   It was not worth trying to repair the remainder.  Scorched books belonging to the Seattle Garden Club were removed by Mrs. Rex Palmer.  Crockery and cutlery belonging to the Arboretum Foundation were salvaged from the cupboards.

Fire debris, April 8, 1968
Fire debris, April 8, 1968

The UW Physical Plant removed the remainder of the building the following week.  The cause of the fire was apparently an electric motor used to drive a pump for the sewage system located under the SE corner of the building, where the fire apparently started.

Brick from the Club House fireplace, one day after the fire
Brick from the Club House fireplace, one day after the fire

The Summer 1970 issue of the Arboretum Bulletin contained a lengthy description of a plan to replace the Floral Hall complex, approved by the UW Board of Regents.  It would be a multi-use building complex providing office space, floral exhibit space, laboratories, an auditorium, a library, an herbarium, a visitor center, greenhouses and other supporting facilities.  The projected cost was $1,200,000.  Obviously this became mired in the politics of the day and never moved forward.   The current Graham Visitor’s Center was finally constructed in 1985, after approval in the earlier Jones and Jones Arboretum Plan.

Conceptual image of the proposed Floral Hall complex, 1970
Conceptual image of the proposed Floral Hall complex, 1970